Concealed Carry

Top 5 ‘Holy Grail’ Guns

Man Shooting Colt Python Grail Guns

The term “grail” used to mean the object of a worthwhile pursuit, often of excellence, rarity or spiritual significance.

The first reference to the Holy Grail itself comes from French poet Chrétien de Troyes. Later, Robert de Boron raised awareness of the spiritual significance of the Grail in his poem Joseph d’Armimathie.

For firearm enthusiasts, the term has now come to mean “the most sought-after object to a certain collector.”

I read of a respectable gun company that created a high-end 1911 they announced was a two of a kind, only two would ever be made, and it was the grail gun of its type. I disagree.

I think the term should mean something that is sought after, not created for the purpose, and which is attainable by many, if not all, of us.

In the sense of this feature, the guns are all available at prices from modest to affordable. I am a shooter. I don’t have anything too nice to shoot.

The guns illustrated have been attained at some expense, often enough when I needed a good gun but really could not afford it.

The following guns are my five grail guns. Perhaps you have yours as well.

1. SIG Sauer GSR Revolution 1911

SIG’s original GSR was manufactured with a Caspian slide and frame and later, SIG built their own slides and frames.

The original was a combination of some of the best aftermarket parts in the world. Not all of them were reliable, but the good ones were very good and SIG soon got them straightened out.

The pistols are named for the Granite State, New Hampshire, SIG’s base of operations. The area around New Hampshire is a land rich in legend.

The Devil and Daniel Webster is among these. The great statesman and orator Webster is said to have won a court case against the Devil.

Having long admired his writings, I can see it. He stated plainly that two New Hampshire men were a match for the Devil.

His catchphrase was ‘How Stands The Union.’ My two SIG 1911s are named Constellation and Constitution, another piece of Webster lore you should get.

If not, I will explain later in the comment section. The pistols, a Carry Stainless and an Officer’s Model, have been exceptionally accurate and reliable.


They are hard-working guns and good companions. As for finding a used one for sale, it is a rarity, but both of these pistols were obtained used at a good price.

SIG Sauer 1911s
These SIG 1911 handguns are among the author’s most trusted.

2. Colt Python

I owned Pythons in my youth and I suppose I didn’t appreciate them enough. Other times, the price offered was tempting and finally, I could not afford a Python for a while.

Today, I own both a 1977 Colt and a new stainless Python. If your grail gun has been the Colt Python, now is a good time for you. The new gun is the better gun.

If you need a handgun, you may master to the point of cleanly taking varmints well past 100 yards, winning a match against custom-grade revolvers, or taking deer-size game to at least 50 yards, the Python is the gun for you.

Colt 1911 and Python
When it comes to grail guns, Colt has more than a few!

3. High-Capacity .45s

While I have been happy with the 1911, there have been times when I have thought a high-capacity .45 might be a good thing.

The GLOCK 21 is as reliable as any handgun, but the grip frame is just too large for my hands.

The SIG P227 is a good pistol but I couldn’t get the hang of it, and magazines could not be obtained at any price at the time I owned it.

Eight well-delivered shots are far better than 12 or 13 fired from a pistol you cannot really control. But there are good high-capacity .45s that actually fit my hand well.

I have been able to find a reliable and accurate Para Ordnance P14 1911. While some Para pistols were labeled unreliable, I think it was mostly the parts guns.

This P14 is a great shooter. However, the big news is a pistol I have tested and found excellent.

The SAR K2C (compact) is a double-action first-shot pistol based on the CZ 75. SAR went with a SIG-type lockup instead of CZ locking lugs, allowing the pistol to be more compact.

The technical sophistication of this Turkish-made pistol is satisfying and the performance gratifying. This gun has punch and polish.

After a long search for a suitable high-capacity .45 ACP pistol, I have a formidable handgun.

When matched against anything else I have tested in this category, the K2C comes out ahead by a considerable margin.

SAR K2C and Para Ordnance P14
Whether a modern K2C, above, or a vintage Para Ordnance P14, below, high-capacity .45s are good tactical and defensive handguns.

4. Colt Government Model

The Colt is the 1911 you should have for your first 1911. They are not the cheapest guns, but neither are they the most expensive.

They will not disappoint as a cheap gun may and when you have mastered the Colt, then, and only then, will you need a high-end or custom pistol.

An overlooked component of the Colt’s legend, and effectiveness, is that they have been prized by outdoorsmen for defense against dangerous animals for more than 100 years.

One of the original design demands by the U.S. Army was that the pistol be effective against Jaguar.

Uncle Sid, scores of explorers, Lawrence of Arabia, Frank Hamer, Frank Luke and Charles Winstead carried the 1911 and trusted it.

When it is you or the beast, the Colt is good to have. Or as one soldier said, if you need to knock at Hell’s Gates and then find the Devil to double-tap him, the Colt is the gun for the job.

When the U.S. Marines found and killed the bandit-leader Charlemagne, they did just that! The Colt is worth every penny and is more affordable than ever.

When my good friend Trevor was fighting the Terrs in Africa, he paid a solid month’s pay for the Colt and never regretted the sacrifice.

Colt 1911
When it comes to Grail guns, they must all take a second-row seat to the Colt Government Model .45.

5. SIG Sauer P210

I wanted a SIG P210 for myself for decades. I tested a pistol for publication, but had not personally owned a P210. I don’t own a Rolex and they are comparable totems.

When SIG introduced their American-made P210 9mm, I obtained one as soon as possible. The new SIG features a SIG P-series type lockup, rather than the original locking lugs.

The safety is much improved and the trigger comparable. The P210 is a great shooter. I am more than pleased with this pistol. I cannot imagine a more accurate and reliable 9mm Luger pistol.

SIG P210
SIG’s new rendition of the SIG P210 9mm is a great handgun for shooters.

Conclusion: Grail Guns

These “Grail Guns” are first-class handguns well worth their price.

Some may take a little effort to obtain and some are more expensive than others, but each offers a ton of pride of ownership.

Best of all, they are shooters made for folks that use their guns as intended. We shoot them a lot.

What are some of your “Grail Guns?” Why? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (31)

  1. I agree with Stanley J Smith Jr. I am also 63 and I also own an ACP HK45 . It is as steady a gun as I have ever used, and it is spectacularly, consistently accurate. I got it because it was based on the same design characteristics of the Special Ops gun selected for use by the Navy Seals:

    My HK45 is threaded and has a double-single action. I originally found out about HK quality when our best man and maid of honor got their HK 9mm, a VP9. I was originally looking for a handgun for my wife and she loved the interchangeable handgrip inserts on the HK lineup. We had gone to the range and tried out several different handguns, but the most reliable and accurate were the HK’s. (I won’t even mention the misfires, malfunctions, etc., of the other models) We eventually got her the HK P30SK, ideal for concealed carry–especially in a purse.

    My wife and I now both shoot HK’s and wouldn’t have any other.

  2. Agree with Rand Baker that the FN FNX is an excellent high capacity 45. Mine is the tactical version with a Trijicon SRO red dot. Install a heavier recoil spring and it will shoot 450 SMC or 45 super (roughly 10mm equivalent) without any worry.

  3. Some adjustments because of the California roster:

    Colt Python -> Manurhin MR 73

    Sig P210 -> CZ Tactical Sports

  4. I am 63 and i have got to shoot alot of different handguns over my lifetime but the absolute best was a HK45 ACP. Hardly any recoil and accurate.

  5. Tanfoglio Witness Elite Ltd. in 10mm. Very accurate, functions perfectly, has optic options ready to go and holds 15+1 of hard hitting 10MM.

  6. 1: Colt Combat Commander .38 Super
    2: Ruger Redhawk .357 magnum (6 shot)
    3: Ruger 3-Screw Blackhawk.41 mag.
    4: S&W model 52
    5: High Standard Military Trophy 5.5”

  7. Regarding hi capacity 45s … You forgot about the FNX 45. Capacity = 15 + 1. And … it’s FNH, which is synonymous with “quality”.

  8. While I am a huge fan of the 1911, the “high capacity” .45acp that I have grown to appreciate and trust is the Springfield Armory XD in .45acp. It is not a petite pistol but I find it easier to handle than the Glock 21. It isn’t a concealed carry gun for me, but is a duty sized pistol. It is more accurate than I am and at 13+1 needs less reloading than by beloved 1911s.

  9. Yes I must admit that the Colt Python was the cream of the crop back in the 70’s when I got discharged from the military and drove and armored truck. The other hand gun guy’s that I worked with was the Smith and Wesson Model 29 44 Magnum with a 6” barrel. Dirty Harry’s pistol. Since I couldn’t afford either starting off I bought the Colt Trooper.357 with a 4” barrel that I still carry some times out hunting.

  10. Hmm… most guns I own I considered “Grail Guns” when I bought them. What has stood the test of time though?
    Well, my S&W 686, a gun I bet my life on.
    After wanting one for a long time I finally got a 1911. Sure, it’s a reproduction of a GI 1911 and wont chamber modern hollow points well but, I didn’t buy it to carry.
    My S&W M&P the 2.0 trigger is really good and with the 5″ barrel I am as accurate with it as the 686.
    IWI Tavor, wanted a bull pup rifle ever since I first saw one. Now I have one. I call it my “Halo” gun ’cause it looks like it belongs in a video game.
    Remington 870 was my first shotgun. Several years ago I bought a Marine Magnum version and it sure is pretty!
    I recently bought a Ruger 57. I’ve been intrigued by the 5.7x28mm round for years. And I finally got a gun chambered for it. I actually owned some 5.7 ammo before I was able to get the gun. I’ll see if it’s still “Grail” worthy in a few years.

  11. My brother’s would have to be a Remington bolt rifle in 30-06 Springfield. Everyone in the family calls it the “Ought Six”. Originally bought in the 60s by dad in California, where (according to the story) it took a buck at 400 yards with just a four-power scope. It’s taken many more bucks since then, albeit with better scopes. Brother eventually replaced the old worn wooden stock with black composite, but everything else is still original parts.

  12. You missed 3 of the most iconic guns of all times ……. 1873 Colt Single Action, S&W Model 26 .357, Colt Diamondback .38, …….

  13. I would like to add the Seecamp .22lr, the OG Walthers PPK-S & PPK-L in .22lr, M1 carbine, The first gen Savage .22lr/.410 combo gun and the Springfield Range Officer Champion 1911 in .45acp. This 1911 is the finest box stock 1911 (for the money) that I have ever had the pleasure to shoot! Bull barrel, fiber optic sights, crisp trigger, polished feed ramp, and general fit and finish.

  14. I thought I had my “Grail Guns” some years ago but with Age comes Wisdom.
    The first was a “Like New” Colt Commander” that I gifted to a Brother and the Second was a P-14 that I bought new Stainless Slide and Barrel for but it’s alloy frame made it too uncomfortable to shoot.
    I finally acquired My “Grail Gun” 2 years ago.
    A complete, unaltered GI “Remington Rand” 1911.

  15. I have the Python and Colt 1911 and wholeheartedly agree. My other grail guns are a Freedom Arms .454 Casul, S&W 629 .44 magnum, Ruger Super Redhawks. 44 magnum and a Springfield 1911-A1, all of which were inherited. I cherish them all and the memories they recall every time I shoot them.

  16. I carried my first 1911 back in 1974 when I became an MP in the army. Over the years, I was required to carry other weapons, but, off duty and retired, I still carry the 1911. I will never get rid of it. The other weapons that the writer listed are for him. Not for me. I wish I still had my Ruger Security-six, .357mag with 4” barrel and bull grips. When I went overseas, I couldn’t take it with me. I thought it was in safe keeping, but, it’s gone, never to be seen again. What a Great revolver. Just my opinion…..

  17. a list of grail rifles for me would be a Ruger No 1 (have)
    winchester 1895 src (have)
    savage 99 (want)
    Dakota model 10 (want)
    Hagn any size (want)

  18. I had a Baker Batavia side by side 16 guage that my grandfather, born in 1891, used as a young man. I used it all through collage. Shot hundreds of quail, pheasant, rabbit, ducks and dove with it. Now, I have given it to my grandson. It was my holy grail gun and it is now his holy grail gun.
    God Bless and lets protect the 2nd Amendment.

  19. Nice list.
    Some of mine…
    I always wanted an M9 Beretta and was able to pick up the M9A3 a few years ago.
    Would still like to find a Ruger Alaskan.

  20. The Colt Python has always been a grail gun for me, I have yet to get one.

    But one grail gun that isn’t very known but is a a work of Swiss art and precision, full stainless with steel slide, comes with everything out of the box and has amazing accuracy, the Sphinx AT2000H. The older models can be very hard to obtain, since once you own one, you’ll never let it go. The trigger and reset, the balance and weight, a perfect 9mm platform. Think of a perfect CZ75, that’s the Sphinx.
    I also have an IMI Desert Eagle 44 mag, power to weight, the best out the DE pistols.
    Another overlooked and inexpensive pistol, CZ82, and a Ruger Security Six, stainless 6″.357.

  21. For collectors (noted the author wrote his Holy Grail was for shooters, not collectors), I feel a Holy Grail should include the Colts, Boa & Viper.

  22. Nice list.

    HK P7M8 (I have 2) Like the PSP also but hard to find mags.
    Korth revolvers
    Transferable NIB UZI, had a chance to own one about 15 yrs ago, didn’t have the funds, still kick myself to this day. 😥😆

  23. add the Savage 99F octagon barrel in 308Win.
    Wish Savage had offered a stainless/laminated/fully adjustable rear sight/9.3×62 Mauser in this

  24. Purchased a new COLT 1911 in mid 70’s for about $125. After a little TLC to clean up minor burrs and tooling marks on the trigger/sear, now have a 1911 that I value at 10X what I paid for it new. Keep your guns cleaned and properly lubed, and your grandkids will also enjoy them.

    There are also a number of “HOLY GRAIL” rifles and shotguns, like a SAVAGE model 99 in .300 Savage, that your grandkids will also enjoy. Anyone who has a “Grandpa’s/Pop’s old gun” handed down to them will think that it is their “HOLY GRAIL” gun as well. Like to see a list of family “hand downs” that folks consider their personal “HOLY GRAIL”.

  25. Concur with most of picks above.
    Would add:
    1. Paraord. LDA hi-cap .45 and
    2. CS1 3″ S&W 686 Customs Service issue, mostly destroyed by AG Reno…
    3. Automag III in .30 carbine
    4. Any Colt SAA

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